Mahathir’s plan to get PAS to back off fails
A desperate Mahathir asks Muhyiddin to speak to Hadi and for Azmin to speak to the Selangor Sultan to get PAS to back down and to allow Amanah to contest the Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar by-elections in straight fights against Umno. However, both PAS and the Sultan consider Amanah merely a tool and a proxy of DAP.
THE CORRIDORS OF POWER
Raja Petra Kamarudin
(Malaysiakini) – Since launching his campaign against Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad has been redrawing the political battle-lines, recruiting troops from both sides of the divide.
He has now launched his latest salvo using DAP organ Roketkini.
On another matter, Mahathir vowed to campaign in the upcoming Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar by-elections.
However, the 91-year-old former Kubang Pasu lawmaker clarified that he has no intention of contesting.
“I don’t want to be the candidate. I am too old. Those who support the Citizens’ Declaration must back whoever is opposed to Najib,” he said.
Pakatan Harapan’s new de facto Opposition Leader, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, wants the Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar by-elections to be straight fights. Mahathir knows that if Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar turn into three or four-corner fights then the chances of defeating Umno-Barisan Nasional would be slim.
Mahathir’s objective is simple. Come hell or high water Umno-Barisan Nasional must be defeated in both Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar. Only then can the Mahathir-led ANC (Anti-Najib Campaign) ‘prove’ that Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak no longer has the support of Malaysians. And this would be the justification to launch a fourth round of attacks (or is it fifth round of attacks?) to demand Najib’s resignation (supported with 1.2 million fake signatures).
Mahathir knows Najib cannot be ousted. He already realised that ten years ago back in June 2006 when he launched his attack on Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. “It is not easy to oust a sitting Prime Minister,” Mahathir said, “I have made the post of Prime Minister too powerful. He has to be pressured into resigning.”
And that was what Mahathir did (he pressured Abdullah into resigning) but it took almost three years before Abdullah resigned. It is now three years since May 2013 when Mahathir first said that Najib should resign as well. However, Mahathir can see that this time around it is not as easy as it was when he forced Abdullah to resign. Najib is a tougher nut to crack.
Soon after the ‘disastrous’ 2008 general election, Abdullah lost two very important parliamentary by-elections. First was the Permatang Pauh by-election, which Anwar Ibrahim won, and the second was the Kuala Terengganu by-election, which was an Umno seat that fell to PAS.
Two-and-a-half months after the Kuala Terengganu by-election Abdullah stepped down.
Mahathir is hoping to see history repeated. If Umno-Barisan Nasional can be defeated in Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar then Najib can be forced to step down. And that was why last month Mahathir announced that PAS should be allowed to contest those two seats in straight fights against Umno.
Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar are traditionally Umno versus PAS seats. So there were no doubts that Umno and PAS would not want to let others take those seats. And Mahathir felt that tradition should be observed and Umno and PAS should be allowed to slug it out in Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar based on straight fights.
The bottom line is Mahathir has no problem if PAS wins Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar as long as Umno-Barisan Nasional loses. That is all that matters.
DAP, however, did not want to allow PAS a ‘walk-over’. DAP wanted Amanah (PAN) to contest those seats even if it results in three-corner fights and Umno wins those seats. To DAP it is better that Umno wins than allow those seats to go to PAS. PAS, on the other hand, said it would rather those two seats fall to Umno than to DAP’s Parti Amanah.
So it looks like for once PAS and DAP agree on something. They both agree that Umno should win Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar instead of allowing those seats to go to their ex-partner. Both PAS and DAP refuse to budge and this did not quite fit in to Mahathir’s plan.
Lim Kit Siang knew that they were facing a stalemate so he spoke to Mahathir and asked the old man to do something. It looks like Mahathir would need to mediate in this matter and get PAS to back down since DAP was certainly not going to back down.
DAP wanted Mat Sabu to contest in Sungai Besar and Nizar Jamaluddin to contest in Kuala Kangsar. Mat Sabu, however, refuses to contest the Sungai Besar seat if it is going to be a three- or four-corner contest. He is prepared to contest only if it is a straight fight.
Mat Sabu lost the Kuala Kedah seat in 2004, the Kuala Terengganu seat in 2008 and the Pendang seat in 2013. If he contests the Sungai Besar by-election and loses, yet again, he would be a four-time loser (and four means die in Chinese). And as the President of a party he cannot afford for this happen.
Nizar, on the other hand, has a number of scandals involving land in Perak and Kelantan, that also implicate DAP and Husam Musa, which can be used against him in the by-election campaign. So, as much as DAP may want Nizar to contest, he has to give Kuala Kangsar a miss lest his scandals become an albatross around Amanah’s neck.
Mahathir could see that his plans are not quite working out the way he had hoped. Candidates like Nizar and Mat Sabu would have been better. But it has to be based on straight fights. And, as Kit Siang said, Mahathir would need to intervene if they wanted this matter resolved.
So Mahathir spoke to Muhyiddin Yassin and Azmin Ali and asked them to ensure that Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar are straight fights. That would be the only way Umno can be defeated and the only way Najib can be pressured into resigning.
So Muhyiddin went to meet the PAS President, Abdul Hadi Awang, to ask PAS to back out from the by-elections and to allow Amanah to contest instead. With Amanah versus Umno in straight fights, they have a better chance of winning than in three-corner fights involving PAS and Amanah versus Umno.
Hadi, however, refused. Hadi made it clear that giving Amanah those seats means giving those seats to DAP. And PAS would rather those seats fall to Umno than to a DAP-owned Amanah. And the fact that DAP has been whacking PAS on a non-existent ‘Hudud Bill’ meant that DAP has closed the door to all possible compromise.
Azmin, in turn, went to meet HRH the Sultan of Selangor to complain about PAS. Azmin told HRH that if PAS does not back off and still insists on contesting the by-elections then he would be forced to take action and sack the three PAS Exco Members from the Selangor State Government. And this would trigger a crisis in Selangor and maybe even result in the Selangor State Government falling like what happened in Perak in 2009.
This did not please the Sultan one bit. First of all, Azmin was threatening the Sultan that the State Government would fall unless HRH intervenes and tells PAS to back off and allow Amanah to contest in Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar. Secondly, HRH knows that Mahathir sent Azmin to ‘blackmail’ him but then it was Mahathir who in the 1980s attacked the Rulers and accused them of interfering in politics. And now Mahathir wants the Sultan to interfere in Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar.
So, Muhyiddin failed to convince Hadi for PAS to give way to Amanah while Azmin failed to get the Sultan of Selangor to intervene and put pressure on PAS to give way to Amanah. Basically, as far as PAS is concerned, they are contesting against DAP and Amanah is merely the proxy of DAP. So it is a proxy war with DAP and Amanah as the front.
DAP is accusing PAS of selling out to Umno. But then Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar are traditionally PAS seats. And Pakatan Rakyat plus Pakatan Harapan have always worked on the basis of ‘traditional seats’ — which means Amanah has no business contesting those seats so it will be Amanah and not PAS who kacau daun.
Amanah is depending on Chinese votes to win. And that is why DAP made a big deal about the so-called ‘Hudud Bill’ even though there is no such bill. DAP is hoping that the ‘Hudud Bill’ issue can swing the Chinese votes over to Amanah.
Amanah, however, is caught between a rock and a hard place. DAP is telling the Chinese that Amanah is opposed to Hudud in the hope that the Chinese voters will give Amanah solid support. Amanah, however, knows that this will also result in the Malay voters abandoning them. So Amanah is telling the voters they are not opposed to Hudud, as DAP says. It is just that they are still undecided whether to support Hudud or not and will decide later.
It looks like DAP’s strategy to garner Chinese votes by telling the Chinese that Amanah is opposed to Hudud may result in the loss of Malay votes instead. And there are two-thirds Malay voters in both Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar. Hence the loss of Malay votes is more crucial than the win of Chinese votes when the Malay-Chinese population ratio is two-to-one.